The Doll Factory
The Sunday Times Bestseller, BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick and BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime
Sunday Times Bestseller – BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick – BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime
The intoxicating story of one woman's dreams of freedom in Victorian England and the man whose obsession threatens to destroy them forever . . .
'A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession' – Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
London. 1850. On a crowded street, the dollmaker Iris Whittle meets the artist Louis Frost. Louis is a painter who yearns to have his work displayed in the Royal Academy, and he is desperate for Iris to be his model. Iris agrees, on the condition that he teaches her to paint.
Dreaming of freedom, Iris throws herself into a new life of art and love, unaware that she has caught the eye of a second man. Silas Reed is a curiosity collector, enchanted by the strange and beautiful. After seeing Iris at the site of the Great Exhibition he finds he cannot forget her.
As Iris's world expands, Silas's obsession grows. And it is only a matter of time before they meet again . . .
'A dark delight and fans of The Miniaturist and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock will love it' - Red
Sunday Times Best Paperback of 2020 Pick – soon to be made into a major TV series!
Readers love Elizabeth Macneal's The Doll Factory:
'I couldn't put it down' *****
'I never wanted it to end' *****
'A plot to stop your heart' *****
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Of the many feats Elizabeth Macneal pulls off in The Doll Factory, her deeply intoxicating portrait of 1850s London might be her most impressive. Rarely has a city been captured so intently or so beautifully. It’s the backdrop for a deliciously dark tale of obsession. Our hero is Iris, a beautiful would-be painter, who meets insidious art collector Silas one night in Hyde Park. While Iris’ career begins to blossom, the spectre of Silas and his increasingly dangerous infatuation continues to build until we reach the book’s thrilling climax.
MacNeal's lively debut finds a fresh way to dramatize the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of revolutionary, mid-19th-century British painters. In addition to William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, MacNeal creates a fictitious PRB member, Louis Frost, who meets Iris Whittle, the heroine, a painter of miniature faces at Mrs. Salter's Doll Emporium. Dismissed for being a woman, Iris longs to be seen as a real painter, and when she meets Frost, he proposes a deal: if she poses for him, he will give her art lessons. At the same time, Iris also comes to the attention of Silas Reed, a taxidermist who sells stuffed animals to artists as props for their paintings. Unbeknownst to Iris, he stalks her with the intention of possessing her like an object\n. Louis turns out to be a generous mentor and Iris ends up falling for him. Only Albie, a light-fingered street urchin befriended by Iris, is aware of how much danger she is in from the obsessed Silas. Told against the backdrop of the Great Exposition at the Crystal Palace and its industrial wonders, MacNeal's consistently enjoyable novel reads like an art history lecture co-delivered by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens and read from a revisionist feminist script. This debut is a blast; it enticingly vacillates between a realistic depiction of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's London and lurid Victorian drama. \n
Best book of 2021
Absolutely love Ophelia, the Rossetti, Millaisand Waterhouse so reading this was always a no brainer and I absolutely couldn’t put it down. Sadly Apple Books no longer says the book is finished until you read the stuff that comes after the novel so 3 months later I finished it. Truth is I read the novel , The Doll factory over 2 nights.
This book is definitely one which builds in momentum and is worth persevering with. At first it appears to be an idealised Victorian romance but it cranks up the suspense 2/3 of the way in. I was tempted to switch off but the final third made it worth my while. If you have ever read and enjoyed The Collector by John Fowles then this is the book for you - I just wish there had been more of it.